The Skylanders franchise has returned to take over the lives of your children and this time there's a whole slew of more options to increase the fun. While the franchise was already a gamble that has paid off huge for Activision, Swap Force takes the game to another level, standing out as the best of the franchise so far.
The key new evolution in the franchise is, as the name suggests, the "swapping" nature of the toys necessary to play the game. Switching the top of one toy with the bottom of another creates a unique character that aids in battle against certain enemies. While there is a “buy in” nature to the game as you or your child will want to access every potential area in the game and thus need all the toys, it’s not necessary to purchase everything to complete the story of the game.
The wide variety of characters adds to the game, as you’ll find yourself tailoring the experience to you with the swaps you create. Between Wash Buckler’s squid legs, Blast Zone’s rocket legs, and the magnetic power of Magna Charge, it becomes almost a science project where you discover exactly what you enjoy. While making different strategic swaps can certainly aid your gameplay, this is the first installment in the franchise that truly calls out to the player to become a portal master as they wish.
This personal nature of play also adds to the upgrade system for the characters. Where past installments of Skylanders called for the player to upgrade a single toy, Swap Force allows players to upgrade each half of the toy separately, again pushing players to create the experience they want to enjoy. If you’re not a fan of Wash Buckler’s legs (which would be a travesty, but this is a judgment free zone), you need not focus on working with them to either finish the game or have a fun experience.
One thing that the fans of the Skylanders franchise long cried out for, jumping, has been added to the game. As silly as it sounds, the addition of this ability really changes the game flow, opening up options that Vicarious Visions took great advantage of, with the complexity of the levels not only grabbing the attention of children, but also capturing the buy-in of adults like we haven’t seen in the franchise before. These options include better-kept secrets throughout the game, far more opportunities for innovative puzzles, and more. It engages an adult by challenging them and, in many ways, pushing them to figure out the puzzles before being shown up by a child. Trust me, it becomes a personal speed challenge to maintain your pride.
Multiplayer is another area enhanced to get families together, as you won’t be standing around any longer while your friend, or child, picks up all the loot or goes through a single player puzzle. Swap Force takes the co-op title seriously, allowing a shared experience on both the loot side and also with the puzzles, as Swap Force brings about multiplayer puzzles for you to enjoy.
During my time reviewing the game, I felt more adults being interested in what was going on, which is huge to the continued success of the franchise as if they’re in, their children are in. Vicarious Visions does a fantastic job of getting everyone involved.
Swap Force had the unenviable task of hitting shelves shortly after Disney Infinity, acting as Activision’s front line in the new “Toys R Games” war. Instead of coming straight at Infinity, Vicarious Visions has done more with Swap Force to show how the two franchises differ. Infinity is largely about creation and imagination within its innovative Toy Box, with story lines that are a good deal of fun.
Skylanders: Swap Force is an adventure where your choices and swaps truly make the game your own. At a time where many were banking on the Skylanders juggernaut taking a hit, Swap Force may show that the franchise is truly unstoppable.
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